Dina Bibi, Pakistani student of the University of Debrecen: I’m home in Christian Hungary
The twenty-four-year-old Dina Bibi got to the University of Debrecen with the help of the scholarship programme of the Hungary Helps Program, where she is doing her masters studies in hydrobiology. Being a Roman-Catholic, she meets every week with fellow foreigners of the Szent László parish.
How does it feel to live in a peaceful country?
It feels marvellous. I’m home in a Christian country; I feel safe. I’m not afraid anymore if my roommate is not home because I know nothing is harmful here. Thanks be to God and the employees of the Hungary Helps Program that I can be here; my dream has come true. This scholarship programme is specifically useful for us persecuted Christians because we can live a more peaceful and joyful life. We are all very grateful for this.
You did the bachelor programme in Pakistan, where the Christian minority have little chance to study and work because of discrimination.
We Christians are in a terrible situation back at home. There were a hundred of us in my group in my bachelor studies, and I was the only Christian among them. It was hard to live with students in a community who always tried to convince me of their faith, their religion. Many could not accept that I have Christian values, they didn’t even share the same table as me, and they encouraged others to do the same. Sadly this is the reality in Pakistan. There were Muslim students I had a good relationship with; thankfully, not all think nor act as I mentioned before.
Hatred and a blind, fanatic mentality often come with undergraduates. The educated people, youngsters, are radicals against Christians?
— If we look back ten years from now, we can say that we were in a bad situation in Pakistan. In the last few years, this has changed, people are more educated, and with that, they have become more accepting. This way, the educated parents and their kids are handling the religious questions in a calmer manner. However, if the parents have no education at all, that shows in how the child is raised, in their behaviour.
Education is key in getting a job?
Back at home, it is almost impossible for Christians to get intellectual work. There is a quota system, and because of that, only one or two Christian get a job on a vacancy out of the thousands of spots. After graduating from university, my electric engineer cousin was not accepted anywhere, so he had to work in the fields to produce crops. Back at home, these are the “jobs for us”. Regardless of their education, Christians are only good for sanitary works– which I might add is a decent role, but it does not require higher education. Regardless of that fact, many go to universities hoping that the situation will change and get better jobs with their qualifications.
You will graduate this year with your master studies. What are your future plans?
I will graduate this summer. However, I want to continue to study further, that is why I applied for a scholarship via the program of the Hungary Helps, this time for the PhD. We have a common dream with my father that one day I could be a doctor in some field; I will do everything to achieve it. If I start my PhD here, I want to become a lab assistant in a lab. I like my teachers, they are very polite and kind people, I would like to work with them.
What is it like to be a Christian in a Muslim country?
In our region, in Punjab State, the number of Christians is the highest, that could even be ten or twenty per cent. This is really high, but we are still a minority compared to the Muslims. This number is one or two per cent in the whole country. I grew up in a small town next to Faisalabad. My father is a policeman, my mom is doing housework. I have three siblings, I have a little sister, a little and a big brother. Two younger siblings of mine study at the university back at home.
How is it possible that your father became a policeman being a Christian? Isn’t the police under state control?
My father got this job back in the ‘90s. The competition for jobs was not as big as it is today; there were less educated people. Nowadays, however, there are more and more highly educated people, that is why a young person can find a job, especially if he/she is a Christian. When my father became a policeman, the tension between religions was not as tense as today.
Does your father, being a policeman, provide more security for your family?
Well, let me tell you a story. When I was younger, we lived in a small town with my family. We lived in a small Christian community, there were only a few Muslims. Two young Christian guys worked at an online Christian portal. In one of their places of work, they shared something about the Koran, which not only reached Christians but Muslims as well. Not long after, a mob appeared in the city with sticks and stones in their hands, and they attacked every house. They broke the windows and doors alike. They targeted our home specifically after they yelled: “That over there is a Christian policeman’s house!” I was very afraid, it was hell to go through that. They did not care who did not agree with their religion. Because of one man they punished everyone because we share the same religion. By the way, we don’t say anything bad about Islam nor about the Koran. It is enough if we exercise our own faith and believe in Jesus Christ, this is blasphemy for them. That’s why we do not talk about our faith with anyone, not even with those who are either close to us or who are our friends. In the last few years, there were bombings in churches in our region, Lahor, they blew up two churches and there were many casualties.
How do you celebrate?
Faisalabad is a city with three million inhabitants – where my family lives. There is an Episcopal cathedral and three Roman Catholic churches, so the situation is not that great, but there are places where we can go to attend Mass. On Good Friday in lent, we go to the stations of the cross and on Sunday, we attend Mass. After that we have a family gathering when eating meat is allowed. We take the forty day long fast very seriously before Easter, we do not eat any meat before that. Our Christmas is not like in any peaceful country because on the 25th of December, the birthday of Pakistan’s founder is on the same day; it is a national holiday.
How did you get affiliated with the Hungary Helps Program?
One of my cousins – who study at Pécs – previously got this scholarship, and he encouraged me to go for the scholarship. In the end, all of my siblings tried to get it, but I was the only one, who could get it. I had to have a recommendation, a pastoral letter of recommendation with an episcopal seal. I also had to pass health tests, and I had to write a motivational letter about my previous studies, my Christian faith and my future plans. I feel very fortunate and glad that I got the scholarship, and I hope to continue my PhD studies here. This is a wonderful country, with great people, and I feel that everything is possible. There are no obstacles to overcome. That is why I would like to transfer something from this to my people and help my people. I don’t know yet how, but I will find a way. Sadly education is quite expensive in Pakistan – that is why I’m here right now. I have three siblings, and because my father is the only one with a paying job, we can’t afford that he finance my master studies. That is why I applied to the program.
In Pakistan, education is not free. Our diocesan high schools often ask for donations for students of Pakistan.
May God bless the charity of the students, we are happy for any kind of help they can give.
Do you need any kind of help?
Actually, for me everything is alright, but if I can say one thing, I would mention my older brother, Atif Ikbal. He did not get any job back at home, and his future doesn’t look so bright. He also applied to the program in hope of a better future, so if I could ask or wish for one thing, that he could study with me here in Hungary.
In the community of the Szent László parish, you meet hundreds of foreigners on a weekly basis. How do you fit in there?
Since this is the only Church in Debrecen, where they hold Mass in English, all the international students are here, in one community. It is a very awesome community, I like to be here. We pray and sing together, which is quite uplifting. Father László Vadászi celebrates the English Mass, he is also a very nice person, he really cares for us. From me, he always asks: “Well, how is Pakistan?”
Source: Magyar Kurír